Why in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" are there two people with only one name: Marlow and Kurtz?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Heart of Darkness," by Joseph Conrad, the two characters referred to with one name each--Marlow and Kurtz--are in the end united, thus forming a whole name.  For, as Kurtz, who is half-English and half-French, lies dying, talking to the very end, his final words are "The horror! The horror!" as he realizes the evil that his unbridled greed for ivory and exploitation of the natives has wrought.  This realization of the dying Kurtz (whose German name means short) is transferred to Marlow, who is an Englishman who speaks French and whose journey into the depths to find Kurtz has provided him the time and atmosphere to contemplate the infinite corruptibility of the European, civilized man.  Thus, their connection to one another is existential and universal.

This connection of the two characters is reflective of a short story that Conrad wrote entitled, "The Secret Sharer," in which a mysterious stranger is rescued by a captain.  This stranger has a remarkable physical resemblance to the captain, who later feels that the two share inner natures.  Kurtz and Marlow, too, are "secret sharers" in the sense that they both come to realize that the elements of knowledge have their existence in the states of their minds.

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Heart of Darkness

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